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Chemical weapons attack: British PM mulls military action against Syria

• Our priority is to avert danger of war -Russia

Britain’s government weighed the possibility of military action against Syria yesterday but faced growing scepticism from opposition leaders and deeper divisions in a country still haunted by its role in the United States-led invasion of Iraq.

Prime Minister Theresa May was held an emergency cabinet to discuss joining mooted strikes by the US and allies, as rival politicians and some Conservative colleagues called for a parliamentary vote before any British involvement. The crisis has evoked memories of the Iraq War, when lawmakers approved joining in the face of strong public opposition.

That conflict left 179 British soldiers dead and unleashed years of sectarian violence as well as protracted recriminations within the British political system over participation. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn raised the spectre of the war yesterday as he insisted MPs should be recalled from their Easter break to have their say on Syria.

“Parliament must be consulted on this,” he said. “Surely the lessons of Iraq… are that there’s got to be… a proper process of consultation,” he added. The Times and the Daily Telegraph newspapers reported that the cabinet would back May in joining any US-led action, as Royal Navy submarines armed with cruise missiles were moving into range. It is believed there are no plans to recall MPs, who are not due to return to parliament until Monday.

Formally, the prime minister has the right to go to war without approval from parliament, but a convention has been established in previous conflicts where MPs have a vote either before or shortly after military action begins.

British lawmakers voted down taking military against Damascus in 2013, in what was widely viewed as an assertion of parliamentary sovereignty on the use of force. But they backed action in Iraq the following year, and again in Syria in 2015, strictly limiting strikes to Islamic State (IS) group targets.

Meanwhile, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia urged the United States and its allies yesterday to refrain from military action against Syria over a suspected chemical weapons attack and said the “immediate priority is to avert the danger of war.”

Asked if he was referring to a war between the United States and Russia, he told reporters: “We cannot exclude any possibilities unfortunately because we saw messages that are coming from Washington. They were very bellicose.”

“They know we are there, I wish there was dialect though the proper channels on this to avert any dangerous developments,” he said.

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